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Famous BBQ - Lunch at Queen and Peter

eller Sep 10, 2007 06:01 PM

For those of us working in the entertainment district, we're the envy of the Bay Street PATH diners with our bevy of choice. We've got Burrito Boyz, Quesada, Ravi Soups, the diner on Peter Street, Parsi, Lettuce, Zupas to choose from. Not far away is New York Subway and Ghandi and there are a million and one sushi, shwarma and sandwich joints in between. We're lucky and we like to flaunt it.

Its a place I'm sure you've walked past many times before. Next to The Gap on the south side of Queen, it looks forgettable from the outside and I didn't think it would last longer than a few months because lunch in the district, as I noted gives a lot of choice for a hungry office dweller. Was another diner really necessary for the 'hood?

For months, my cash strapped coworker has been bringing back enormous plates of food, stinking up our work area with garlic and onion and roasted meats and for these months I had no idea where he was getting his lunch from. Last Friday he returned to the office with what I would like to call the last straw; A souvlaki plate piled high with salad, coleslaw, pasta salad, a bit of rice, fries and of course, meat. I could smell the tzatziki from 20 feet away, so I had to go and ask just what he was eating. His reply was Famous BBQ, the joint I'd been walking past for too long.

Today, in a fit of Monday Rage I set out to Famous BBQ because I knew that comfort food was what they could serve me. And if there was no quality, there'd at least be quantity.

It was busy when I got there, which is always a good sign. Nothing special about the decor, but what struck me was the owner at the cash, not a few years older than me shaking everyone's hand and saying hello in between his order calling to the open kitchen a few feet behind him. Soon, it was my time to order and he asked me for my name and my order. "Souvlaki please" I replied. He then said that I had a few choices to make and I was so amazed at his control over the transaction which seemed sincere and for 30 seconds he took care of my order, ensuring it was exactly how I wanted it to be.

"We have chicken and pork souvlaki today, Eller although we've also got a spicy pork souvlaki too." he said. I was amazed for someone spoke more than a few words to me during a busy lunch takeout. I chose the spicy pork and he began to write out my order on my foam clamshell. "We have Italian, oil and vinegar, Thousand Island, Greek and French dressings for your salad."

Once our transaction was finished, he invited me to step aside or take a seat while he repeated the same personable service with everyone else, stopping during minute long lulls to clear tables and to welcome regulars back to his place and say goodbye to those leaving the neighbourhood. Amazing.

My food was cooked to order and so once it was ready he nodded at me and I returned to the counter. "Eller, are you new here? I don't think I've seen you before." He asked me to return soon and I left, hearing him greet others with something so foreign to the Queen St. strip; Hospitality.

I got back to my desk and almost immediately, I had people swarming my workspace asking me where I'd got my lunch. I was too busy to talk though, as I had huge, tender chunks of pork to contend with and a generous amount of tzatziki to bathe it in. It was garlicky yet balanced with what I thought was a bit of tandoori (different, but delicious) spice to add a kick to the meat. My salad and coleslaw was also good. Crispy, fresh and light although I barely touched my fries or rice as it was all too much food... for a mere $9.

I'm still burping garlic in the way that only a good lunch can do to a tummy. And I thought I'd recommend Famous BBQ here for those of us who already know that great meals on the district are a wonderful thing, so that lunch can become even better.

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Famous BBQ Express
385 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V2A5, CA

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    Yongeman RE: eller Sep 10, 2007 06:09 PM

    Great rec, eller.

    1. duckdown RE: eller Sep 10, 2007 07:43 PM

      Sounds delicious, great review, thanks.... Too bad I live in Peel!

      1. f
        fickle RE: eller Sep 10, 2007 07:49 PM

        Thanks for the review Eller. I've walked past it many times also and never thought to venture in. I might have to stop in tomorrow for lunch ;-)

        1. xtal RE: eller Sep 10, 2007 08:25 PM

          Thanks for the review. Might have to make a trek down there--but only on an off day. I always seem to have to meet with important folk when I have the worst lunch breath... :)

          1. c
            c_snapper RE: eller Sep 10, 2007 08:35 PM

            sweet..good thing i have this friday off, i'm definitely gonna give this a try.
            what else do they have to offer there? chicken in a non soulvkai form?

            1 Reply
            1. re: c_snapper
              eller RE: c_snapper Sep 11, 2007 06:21 AM

              I think I've seen my coworker eating a 1/2 chicken feast before. They also have the requisite chicken fingers, chicken burger and I'm sure chicken on a bun could be made if you ask for it.

            2. t
              togone RE: eller Sep 10, 2007 09:59 PM

              must try!

              1. c
                crawfish RE: eller Sep 12, 2007 03:18 AM

                I will have to try this place! Especially since many years ago there was a restaurant in that location (I'm pretty sure it's the same place) that was famous for it's nasty service. I think it was called Barney's? Barney would insult you, yell at his workers and chase you out if you sat too long. So it's nice to hear this place is cleansing the location of some of that negativity :)

                3 Replies
                1. re: crawfish
                  e
                  embee RE: crawfish Sep 12, 2007 06:20 AM

                  Hey crawfish, I guess you don't have much background in Jewish deli culture :-)

                  It's amazing how many people were devastated when Barney Devore retired. His attitude was once the norm in a particular kind of restaurant environment and some people of a certain age actually miss this shtick.

                  There was a similar place on Bathurst and Glencairn called, I think, Stubby's. On weekend mornings, this place was patronized by a who's who of lawyers and real estate developers.

                  1. re: crawfish
                    OnDaGo RE: crawfish Sep 12, 2007 06:39 AM

                    Actually the Famous BBQ guy was known for yelling at his mom the "cook" when they first opened don't know if it is still the case...

                    Another excelent counter guy is the owner of Peter street deli.. he is a total character!

                    1. re: crawfish
                      c
                      crawfish RE: crawfish Sep 12, 2007 05:07 PM

                      Oh, I know the schtick. I was introduced to the place by a Jewish lawyer.

                    2. c
                      childofthestorm RE: eller Sep 12, 2007 10:36 AM

                      I miss working around there, Famous was my choice for when I was REALLY hungry. That owner guy is a class act.

                      1. d
                        dgrayca RE: eller Sep 13, 2007 12:05 PM

                        There is also a Famous BBQ Express in Liberty Village on Atlantic Street. Unfortunately the hours only allow them to really service the business crowd. I did, however, stop by there on a vacation day and I must say, my experience was very similar to that which you describe above. I had the spicy chicken which was a great lunch.

                        1. f
                          fickle RE: eller Oct 19, 2007 09:54 AM

                          Thanks for the rec Eller, I'm sitting here with a gigantic container of spicy pork souvaki in front of me. It's very tasty and filling. Such a nice option for lunch, everything from the fantastic service to the good food. I'll definitely swing back to sample their other options when I have someone to split it with, there's way too much food for one person!

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